NHS England’s abandoned patient feedback service Care Connect cost on average £1,600 for every patient query resolved during the pilot phase.
A Freedom of Information request by Digital Health News reveals that the total cost of the scheme between 2013-15 was £1.25 million.
Pioneered by NHS England’s national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey, it allowed patients to go online, ring a telephone number, text or use social media to log concerns, ask a question or provide feedback on their experiences
Twenty-two trusts in London and the North of England piloted the service between July 2013 and February 2014. Care Connect case handlers completed 760 cases and dealt with another 220 “miscellaneous questions” via text, the FOI response reveals.
Inspired by the 311 hotline service in the US, Care Connect was due to be rolled out across England by February 2014.
However, the multi-channel service has been quietly abandoned and NHS England confirmed to Digital Health that there are no plans for a national roll-out.
The plan was that the service would become part of the new NHS Choices, now rebranded as NHS.uk.
It was key to NHS England’s aim to: “ensure that all NHS funded patients will have the opportunity to leave feedback in real time on any service by 2015”, as outlined in the document, Everyone Counts: Planning for Patients 2013/14.
Kelsey said at the time of the launch in 2013: “This is about transparency and public participation. For the first time, it gives patients a direct route to find out information about NHS services, ask questions and get problems resolved.”
However, the FOI reveals that the service was never widely picked up by patients and subsequently came at a high cost.
A spokesperson from St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust told Digital Health News earlier this year that during the six months that it piloted Care Connect, two patients gave feedback, but this did not relate to the trust.
A spokesman for Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust also confirmed the service was not widely used by patients.
The FOI response says that for those patients that used the service; 53% used phone; 19% online; 16% SMS; 10% online; and 2% via email.
NHS England’s FOI response says the online ‘ask a question’ facility was the most popular function and was switched off when NHS Direct closed in March 2014.
“NHS England considers that had an online channel remained available, total activity for this function would have been higher,” the statement says.
Care Connect case handlers also helped with 3,000 general enquiries on behalf of the Customer Contact Centre, it adds.
In a statement to Digital Health News in July, NHS England’s London regional director for patients and information Jane Barnacle said the organisation had learnt a lot from the studying the data gathered in the pilot.
“Our findings have proved to be very valuable and the next step is for us to now to feed this into the new models of care,” she said.
Care Connect was built by mySociety using open source architecture.